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Full Digital: Change Is Coming

What’s obvious from many recent installations – including some of the largest ones – is that end users are now prepared to pay a premium for storage capability that allows them to take advantage of the higher resolution possible over networks when quality full digital cameras are used. Such cameras have no analogue to digital conversion process and the images they provide can have many times the resolution of some analogue cameras. The demand for better resolution and the associated increase in file sizes means that as the industry moves forward, bigger storage capacity, higher camera resolutions and improvements in compression are going to become the central planks of future system capability.As every surveillance person well knows, none of this is entirely straightforward. Depending on the nature of the solution required there will be issues surrounding network bandwidth, the size of stored files and maintenance of image rates at peak times. These issues are most challenging on larger sites with larger camera numbers where security managers wish to keep scene resolutions at a maximum.But regardless of the challenges, one thing is certain. DVRs and NVRs with IP connections able to deliver high resolution image streams where required are going to become commonplace over the next 2-5 years. In the course of researching SEM’s case studies it has long been clear that a particular issue for many users is the quality of images it’s possible to replay after analogue image streams have been converted and stored to HDD according to PAL standards. In too many cases the quality of these images is so poor it does not allow identification of faces. This is a problem because many security managers and business owners put a great deal of store in the ability of their systems to do more than provide a low-res view of a general scene. For end users, any incident in which the individuals involved can’t be identified throws the capability of the entire surveillance solution into doubt. Fact is, higher resolution is an extremely powerful investigation tool but it’s a tool that’s never really been exploited. Consider that while some digital recorders allow digital zoom, the images recorded are seldom of a quality high enough to take advantage of the feature before pixellation renders them useless. Just to make all this more interesting there’s an argument that says not only should high resolution full digital image streams be the benchmark for all systems, the time to implement that benchmark is nowThe implications of this argument are that the cameras, compressions and storage capacity to handle higher resolution image streams are already available. This means there is an onus on suppliers and integrators to work towards delivering end users next generation performance instead of resting on the PAL-based laurels of yesteryear.And anyone with a serious argument against this point of view should consider one fact. The latest and most promising digital plaything, video analysis, will never deliver its full capability until given the raw data it needs to handle the work. In case the point isn’t obvious to you, consider that this raw data is pixels – lots and lots of pixels.There’s never going to be any argument that the current crop of DVRs and NVRs aren’t anything less than extraordinarily capable solutions that offer end users vastly more flexible operation than the plodding analogue systems of 10 years ago. But easy access doesn’t mean better pictures and it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the fact the in terms of image quality, we could be doing a lot better than we are right now.


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